When temperatures dip and snowflakes begin to fly, it’s time to start planning some winter fun in the forest preserves.
“Winter recreation has many health benefits especially in the Midwest when the season seems endless and days of sunshine are far and few between,” said Diane Basile, facility supervisor at Plum Creek Nature Center in Crete Township.
The Forest Preserve offers a wide variety of winter-themed activities including sledding, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and hiking.
The District’s winter recreation hub is located at Plum Creek Nature Center. Starting December 1 (weather permitting) you can rent a tube at the nature center or bring your own tube or plastic sled to glide down the site’s popular 40-foot-high sledding hill. Tube rentals cost $2 per day.
If you’re looking for something a little slower paced, the nature center also rents snowshoes to visitors who want to explore snow-covered trails. Snowshoe rentals cost $10 per day.
Winter activities take place when conditions allow. Call the nature center at 708.946.2216 for condition updates.
After experiencing the wonders of winter, visitors can step inside the nature center to warm up by the fireplace and watch the birds at the feeders, view the resident reptiles, examine a bee hive and explore many other interesting exhibits.
Forked Creek Preserve – Butcher Lane Access in Wilmington features a natural hill ideal for sledding in the winter. The area is not supervised nor monitored for snow conditions, and visitors must bring their own sledding equipment to this site.
Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing also are allowed on many Forest Preserve District trails, which are not plowed during winter for this very reason. To view a list of trails and rules and guidelines, visit the Cross-Country Skiing and Snowshoeing pages.
Or if the temperatures are chilly, but the paths are clear, hiking is always a good way to stay fit year-round.
“Winter recreation can help you from gaining those pesky extra winter pounds, and it helps with seasonal depression and insomnia,” Basile said.
Also, getting outside in winter is a great way to bond with your family, Basile said.
“The very best benefit is seeing children and families interacting and away from their cellphones and TVs," she added. “We love when we hear kids yelling that they are having so much fun and they don’t want to go home. Often, families will spend all afternoon on the sled hill coming in periodically to warm up.”
Basile said her favorite family story is from 2017 when a storm dumped a lot of snow at Plum Creek one weekday morning and a dad planned his own special Snow Day.
“He told staff he called the kids in sick for school so they could come and have a memorable old-fashioned snow day,” Basile recalled. “And they were the first ones to enjoy the hill that day.”
Plenty of winter programs
In addition to winter recreation, the Forest Preserve also hosts many winter-themed programs.
The biggest winter event is the annual “Snow Day Festival,” which will be held from noon-4 p.m. Saturday, January 18 at Plum Creek. This year’s theme is inspired by the animated movie “Small Foot.” The fest will feature ice sculpting, a snowball fight, s’mores and an outdoor fire.
Other winter-themed programs taking place in the coming weeks are:
- Four Rivers Winter Bird Hike: 8-10 a.m. Friday, December 6, Four Rivers Environmental Education Center, Channahon.
- Animals in Winter – Hike and Craft: 10 a.m.-noon December 7, Four Rivers Environmental Education Center.
- Winter Campfire and Stroll: 6:30-8 p.m. Wednesday, December 18, Four Rivers Environmental Education Center.
- Winter Wonder Walk: 1:30-3 p.m. Saturday, January 25, Isle a la Cache Museum, Romeoville.
- February Frost Scavenger Hunt: Saturday, February 1-Saturday, February 29, Four Rivers Environmental Education Center.
- Winter Survival Skills: 10 a.m.-noon, Saturday, February 22, Isle a la Cache Museum.
For more details on other upcoming programs and events, please visit the Event Calendar.
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